Banner
Every Hour Someone In The UK Is Told They Have Parkinson’s

“The gift that keeps on taking” someone called it. It starts with a little twitching that...

So We Have No Free Will, But At Least We Are Influencing Half Of The World

In times of easy access to the Internet and cheap travel, we consider ourselves part of a global...

Major Breakthrough For Vaccine Design

Vaccines are the safest, cheapest and most effective way to protect against infectious diseases ...

And That's How The Locust Changed Its Mind

The desert locust (a type of grasshopper), much like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, goes from being an...

User picture.
picture for Helen Barrattpicture for Steve Davispicture for Johannes Koelmanpicture for Michael Whitepicture for Simone Coughlanpicture for T. Ryan Gregory
Catarina AmorimRSS Feed of this column.

After many years as a scientist (immunology) at Oxford University I moved into scientific journalism and public understanding of science. I am still at Oxford Uni but now I write about any bio... Read More »

Blogroll
Portuguese scientists discovered a new molecular mechanism that allows gamma herpes viruses to chronically infect patients and helps to explain why these patients present an abnormally high incidence of the lymphocyte (or white blood cell) cancer lymphoma, particularly when their immune system is compromised.

The research, just published in the advance online edition of The Embo Journal, reveals how these viruses mimic the host molecular machinery to shutdown NF-kB –a key regulatory protein complex involved in cell division and death – on infected lymphocytes, and how this - probably by disrupting the cells normal regulatory systems - creates the conditions for the development of lymphomas.
The immune response can protect us from basically any invader but it can also create disease - like it happens in autoimmunity where it attacks the own body - so to understand its regulation is an important tool to assure its proper functioning. In a Nature Immunology article, scientists in Portugal study one of the least understood white blood cells subsets – the gamma delta T cells – and reveal that it is composed by two distinct functional groups that can be identified according to the expression of a molecule called CD27, which is also determinant deciding which subset dominates the immune response.
Scientists have discovered a mutation responsible for cancer progression, a finding with potential implications for the development of treatment against not one, but a series of cancer types, since this mutation can be linked to an abnormality recently discovered to exist in all malignancies.   The discovery has just been published in Nature Genetics.(1)


Cooperation, despite being now considered the third force of evolution, just behind mutation and natural selection, is difficult to explain in the context of an evolutionary process based on competition between individuals and selfish behaviour. But this puzzle, that has haunted scientists for decades, is now a little closer to be solved by research about to be published on the journal Physical Review Letters.

A research team in Portugal and the US has found for the first time nicotine receptors in the taste buds. In fact, although most of the toxicity of smoking is linked to other components, it is nicotine that leads to smoking addiction and until now it was believed that this substance had to migrate into the brain to bind its specific receptors and provoke its effects.

Asymmetry is crucial for the heart proper functioning, and now, scientists from the Institute Gulbenkian of Science in Portugal and Harvard University, have discovered that a family of genes, called Nodal, is crucial determining this asymmetry by controlling the speed and direction of the heart muscle cells during embryonic development.

The finding, by helping to understand how the heart develops, is a step closer to intervention and is of particular importance if we consider that problems in heart asymmetry are the main cause of heart congenital diseases that can affect as much as 8 out of 1000 newborns. The research appears in a special December issue of the journal Development Dynamics 1 dedicated to left-right asymmetry development.